It was in the beginning of 1945, at the age of 17 years and while the war was still raging on, that I entered the big French Air Force family with
the hope of becoming a pilot someday. Unfortunately, there were neither flight school, nor training airplanes yet
available! I was therefore resigned to await better days while serving in the ground services (from 1945 to 1951);
I was even enticed to take a course as an …Accountant!
Despite everything, those years would not be too boring since it would give me an opportunity to be assigned in Tunis-El Aouina and Bizerte-Sidi Ahmed in Tunisia, then to Saïgon-TanSonNhut, Hanoï-BachMaï, and Bien-Hoa in Indochina after a maritime "cruise" of 22 days from Bizerte to Saïgon aboard the S.S Champollion in June 1949.
It was in 1952 that my dream would finally be realized: I was admitted in the flying personnel of the French Air Force as a student pilot, and just in time as I was approaching the age limit of 25 years!
My flight training began at Mitry-Mory (Seine et Marne). It consisted of 15 hours on the Stampe SV4C, , the airplane I first soloed, the most exciting flight for a pilot, which was followed with the awarding of the student pilot's wings.
The next phase would be at the Marrakech Morocco school for ground and flight training. This course included 180 flight hours on the North American AT-6 , for advanced training, instrument flying, aerobatics, formation flying, and night flying.
After successfully passing several other tests, and according to our medical standard, technical proficiency, or personal preferences, we were assigned either to the fighter pilot school in Meknes (Morocco), or to the transport pilot school in Avord (France).
Hence, it was Avord Air Base that welcomed me along with the other half of our Marrakech graduating class in June of 1954 for a six months twin-engine transition course, which comprised one hundred flight hours on the Dassault MD-312 "Flamant" At the end of this training course, we were awarded our military pilot's license, along with the French wings "macaron de pilote" and the "White Card" authorizing instruments flying.
After graduation, we were assigned to various escadrilles according to personal choice, and the final ranking in our graduating class. Then, I joined the S.A.S.M. 99 (Maritime Search and Rescue) in Boufarik (Algeria). There, I would accumulate 70 flight hours as copilot on the four engines MB-161 "Languedoc" . after a brief stay of only 3 months.
Then, I was off for a new assignment in Vietnam, finding myself as a flight instructor in Nhatrang, ,an Air Base on the seaside, with a superb beach more than 5 kilometers long. It was a Vietnamese flight school where the young pilots in training received their primary flight initiation on Morane-500 and Cessna-L19 before their departure for further training in the USA. It was not a very exciting year from an aeronautical point of view, but a very nice location for scuba diving…!
In March 1956, I returned to France…what a difference in climate, it was very cold! After a short leave, I was assigned as a flight instructor on the twin-engine Dassault MD-312 and MD-311 "Flamant" in Avord Air Base for three years. During this long assignment, I went from single to married status and I became a father.
On my request, in February 1959 I joined the E.O.M.83 (Overseas
Escadrille) to Bangui (ancient Oubangui-Chari that
would eventually become the Central African Republic). It was a unit equipped with Dassault-315 "Flamant",
Max-Holste MH-1521 "Broussard" and an escadrille of North American AT-6.
It was an exciting assignment: Airmail deliveries, medical evacuations, along with strafing and bombing training,
including air-ground support . I stayed there for 2 years, where my family also joined me for a portion of that
With the Algerian war dragging on, I was re-assigned to this theater of operations upon my return to France from Bangui. For 18 months with G.L.A.45 (Liaison Air Group) in Boufarik near Algiers, I flew various airplane types: Dassault-312 and 315, NC-702 "Martinet, a derivative of the old antique German Siebel also known as the NC-701, Nord-1100, MH-1521 Broussard, and DC-3 Dakota . flying varied missions (not always likeable) across all of Algeria, the Sahara desert, black Africa and Tunisia (Bizerte).
It was now the beginning of 1963, Algeria was independent and the French Air Force did not really need me any longer. Missing my family and longing for civilian home life, I requested to be discharged. The French Air Force accepted my request and after 18 years of "true and loyal services" I received my honorable discharge.
Since that time, I have retired to my native countryside. I radically changed job, continuing to fly in Aero Clubs for about fifteen more years, and accumulating a few more flight hours. As I finally retired from flying, I re-contracted an old virus of my youth: motorcycling. So I purchased a Yamaha SR-500cc. . In addition to my motorcycle hobby, I also pursue apiculture, gardening, fishing and forest plantation. My days are very busy indeed!
Recently my sons decided that it was high time for me to learn about computers, so now, I am back to flying, mastering a "Flight Simulator" that reminds me of the old Link-Trainer of yesteryears. And, best of all, the computer has given me the opportunity to narrate my life on the Web.
If by chance, anyone sharing my passion and interests happens to land on my website and would like to contact me, please do not hesitate.
Marcel Paquelier, alias "The Major")
and his "Smala", large family